Hard Wired Lighting

Concerning the neutral wiring to your boxes. Make sure that they do not share a neutral wire run from ANY 220 volt box/outlet.

For instance in my new house they shared a neutral run for my 120 VAC to my refrigerator from a nearby 220 VAC outlet for my gas ovens. The problem is that when I went to replace the refrigerator's electrical outlet (to an X-10 type) I made sure the breaker was off and verified by pluging a lamp into that outlet to make sure the light was off before removing it.

When I took the outlet off I removed all the wires and when I touched the White neutral wire I got shocked! Found out that it was "backfeeding" from the nearby 220 Volt box and the moment I removed its ground reference (by taking the wire off of the outlet) I created a 120 Volt potential between that wire and ground.

I have never heard of running wiring this way, but I guess its done to save the amount of neutral feeds needed from the kitchen to the breaker box.

One strong piece of advice I would give anyone is that when you are installing X-10 outlet and switches that require you to remove existing units is this: If you are removing any item which already has a neutral feed attached to it (i.e. an outlet) especially in the kitchen area, make sure that when you disconnect the neutral wire that you do not have any voltage between that wire and ground! I would even go one step further and shut off the breakers to any nearby 220 volt sources, just in case that neutral is being shared from that box.

Since I am on this subject:

Another situation I ran into was when I wanted to place X-10 light switches in a four switch gang box. For convienence I wanted to remove all four switches at once. Three of the switches went to overhead lighting and one switch went to a wall outlet (that didn't have anything pluged into it). I turned all the switches on and tripped the breaker that turned off all three of the overhead lights. I then ASSUMED that no power was in the box.

Well, when I touched the black (source) wire that went to the last switch that powered the outlet I got shocked. Found out that its source WAS ON ANOTHER BREAKER (its feed was not the same source/breaker as the other three switches). I had to shut off another breaker to make that entire box colded. (I also assumed that it was against code to have two separate sources installed in one junction box).

Bottom line is to be carefull and if you can, physically check for voltages with a meter first (usually to each wire and "ground").

Regards,

BSR
 
warez, sorry for the misdirection.. I hadn't followed your whole thread that you were specifically talking about a "non standard" circuit breaker box (Lightolier).
 
Warez,

Early on in this thread, I mentioned that you were sure to get lots of opinions. ;)

DavidL did mention "I wired my house so was sure to home run wire all major lighting circuits and circuits that I thought might be controllable..."

And he still uses a $300 coupler. DavidL is lucky, that was all he needed after home running his wiring.

As I mentioned, my house is older, built in the late 60's, and X10 reliabilty has been almost a nightmare, requiring considerable effort to isolate and filter the noise generators, and coupling, etc. (Also some of my house is wired with aluminum wire, since in the late 60's copper prices were going out of sight. Aluminum wiring is very noisy, electically speaking, and difficult to work with)

Probably all of us that use X10 have had different levels of success (or not initial success) since all houses are different, and power companies supplying power to the houses are different, and neighbors sharing the outdoor power transformers are different.

The opinions that have been shared with you by the various posters are all valid points, with the intention of helping you to make decisions to improve the reliabilty of your Home Automation system before the first wire is run in your new home.

Only you know your budget and expectations of what you want from any future "Home Automation" you might later decide to implement.
 
BSR, about your shared neutral surprises, when I redid my electrical panel and had two kitchen circuits with a shared neutral, I used a 2 ganged 15 amp breaker so that whenever I shut it off, both sides of that neutral would always be off together. I can't understand why this isn't a code requirement for safety...
 
JohnBullard said:
The opinions that have been shared with you by the various posters are all valid points, with the intention of helping you to make decisions to improve the reliabilty of your Home Automation system before the first wire is run in your new home.
Believe me. I honestly appreciate all the info I can get. ;)

I think when the subject of wiring lights separately from outlets came up, I misinterpretted it as a "gotta have" instead of a "nice to have". I now realize that it is something that could make things easier, but it's not exactly a necessity.

To tell you the truth, I'm teetering. I can't decide whether to talk to the electrician about running the lights and outlets separately or not. I'll need some time to think about this one.
I've got a few more questions about it though...
Should only lights be wired through the firewall? What about outlets for devices like a CM11A or outlets where outdoor garden lights are plugged in?
Also, if I use X10 for all lighting, is the Compose firewall still beneficial? Or is it only worthwhile if using a Compose system?

Thanks...
 
Warez,
How many square feet are in the house you are building? The reason I ask is to help decide if you need a compose firewall. I live in a 2800sq ft house and there is not a single outlet I can not control since installing my coupler repeater.
 
Warez,

Where I live the code has changed where the lights and plugs have to be on different circuits. Even if you weren't going with X-10 it might be a good thing to ask the electrician. In the workshop I'm bulding I'm doing it that way for safety reasons. That way if a saw trips a breaker the lights don't go out with the saw spinning down in the dark. It could be benificial in the regular part of the house as well.

As for the Compose firewall. Just think of it as a repeater coupler on steroids. One thing to keep in mind is that it doesn't pass extended code X-10. Leviton uses some extended commands so they would not be compatible with the firewall.

As for me I use the Compose switches in my house because I really like the feel but I have a Leviton coupler repeater in my breaker box because it is much cheaper than a compose firewall. I haven't gotten around to fully automating my house yet but I don't have any signal problems and feel the reliability is way up there near 100%. The main thing with X-10 is stay away from the cheap brands like the X-10 brand.

My $0.02.

Eric
 
Late to this thread, but here is my $.02.

1) Nuetral in every box - already covered by other posters.
2) Get the largest boxes possible installed at switch locations. All the remote switches are larger than standard electrical switches, so the more room the better. I normally install the Carlon B122 boxes when possible.
3) Put the lights and receptacles/appliances on separete circuits. As previously mentioned, this prevents you from being left in the dark when you overload a circuit. On the HA front, doing so isolates the (X10) receivers from noise/interference created by computers, motors, etc. While noise will travel throughout the electrical system, it is attentuated by distance (the way the wire runs). If you do install a Compose system, this type of wiring will put the firewall in between the noise source and the receivers.

The Compose firewall is basically a pumped up coupler repeater. You can go without it, or use a coupler/repeater from another manufacturer, but if you do, your reliability will suffer. Make no mistake, with planning and effort you can get a x10 installation 99% reliable, which is good enough for most DIY people. The extra money for the firewall makes the installation 100% bullet proof, which is what professional installers require.

Most of the hardwired systems are significantly more expensive than X10/compose/z-wave. One exception is the HAI/OnQ ALC system. Requires a dasiy chain run of cat-5 to each switch location. Good points is it is MUCH quicker than all the other systems, and has excellent features. The HA system always knows the correct status of the switch. You will need a controller (HAI Omni Line, OnQ HMS line, Aegis) or the new standalone controller from OnQ.

Somebody mentioned earlier that there is not a problem having low voltage and line voltage mixed in a box. THIS IS INCORRECT! Except for some specific instances, mixing is not allowed. The exception that applies to the ALC system mentioned above is that the two can be mixed in a box IF the LV wire is used for controll purposes, AND one of the two following conditions are met 1) there is a specified distance (don't remember the specific number) between the two voltages, or 2) the low voltage wires are insulated for the maximum allowable high voltage allowed in the box. The ALC switches have pigtails rated to 600V that run out of the box, and are then connected to the cat5.

If I were you, I would install compose switches, and the firewall inclosure. That way you can save the firewall money now, but still have the option of easily installing the guts later if needed.
 
BSR, about your shared neutral surprises, when I redid my electrical panel and had two kitchen circuits with a shared neutral, I used a 2 ganged 15 amp breaker so that whenever I shut it off, both sides of that neutral would always be off together. I can't understand why this isn't a code requirement for safety...
Guy:

I agree with you whole heartedly and also wish that was a code requirement!
 
jlehnert said:
Put the lights and receptacles/appliances on separete circuits. As previously mentioned, this prevents you from being left in the dark when you overload a circuit.
I asked my builder about this last week. He said this would go against code. He said he was required to have individual rooms on at least one breaker. This is so that you can cut power to one room with the flip of one switch at the breaker box.

Oh well...
 
He said this would go against code. He said he was required to have individual rooms on at least one breaker
This may be partially true. I do know there is a new code for "bedrooms" which require that any outlet or light switch needs to be on a breaker that is sensitive to "sparks", or a sudden in-rush of current to ground. Its a special breaker that even has a neutral feed to it (I have them in my breaker boxes in my new home for the bedrooms and den). For instance if you slowly plug in an applicance such as a TV you may experience a strong "spark". That spark will trip these new breakers.
 
I asked my builder about this last week. He said this would go against code. He said he was required to have individual rooms on at least one breaker.

Bullshit! ;) Either he doesn't understand the code, or (more likely) he just doesn't want to be bothered.

The item BSR is referring to is an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI). They became a requirement as of the 2002 version of the NEC. AFCI are required on all bedroom receptacles, to prevent fires caused by sparks. As BSR points out, a spark could be from a lose receptacle, or from a broken electric blanket. The bedroom requirment is to prevent fires in a location where harm could come to the occupants prior to the smoke alarm tripping. All the AFCI units I've seen are mounted in the electric panel. There are supposedly wall units similar to the pass through GFCIs, but I've never seen one.

Coming from someone who has had an electric blanket catch fire on them, I'm ALL for this requirement. However, there is nothing saying that a bedroom must all be on a single circuit. In fact, in no part of the code does is say that you MUST use ONLY a single circuit in any room. There are places where you must have AT LEAST one dedicated circuit (20 Amp/bathroom or dining room) or two dedicated circuits (20 amp for kitchens). By code, you could actually have a one to one relationship between circuits and receptacles (ie 20 receptacles - 20 circuits).

Depending on how much you want to fight this, you might want to place a call to your local electrical inspector. The NEC is a guideline, not a law, and there is a large fudge factor involved called "as determined by the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction)". It's a catch-22. It's your house and you are paying for it to be made the way you want it, but if you get the contractor pissed off, you are sure to lose in the end.
 
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